What happened to Hajnal Ban?

 

WHEN glamour politician on the rise Hajnal Ban appeared in court in 2012, wearing a white polka dot dress accentuating her drawn appearance, her seemingly perfect life was in freefall.

Just two years earlier Ban had it all as Coalition leader Tony Abbott cut the ribbon on her campaign office - the 31-year-old had been anointed to run in the federal seat of Wright.

Yet her eagle's dive into the abyss of anonymity and financial despair was only beginning.

Insight can reveal the same ugly scandal centring on claims Ban misappropriated her elderly mentor's money, which effectively crushed her sure-fire political ascent, continues to drag on in the courts a decade later.

Hajnal Ban outside court.
Hajnal Ban outside court.

Once described by Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce as "a Barbie doll with bite," Ban is today without a house or job and faces a looming legal threat over $283,111 in unpaid court costs.

A Greenbank property bequeathed to her has also been sold under court order to claw back a debt.

It's a stark about-turn for the ex-Logan councillor, arguably better known for the bone-breaking leg lengthening surgery that added 8cm to her 154cm stature.

The dispute involves allegations Ban "misappropriated" hundreds of thousands of dollars' belonging to elderly barrister father figure, the late Russell Tacon.

Ban previously credited Tacon as having "changed my entire life."

Hajnal Ban and Sean Black in happIer times.
Hajnal Ban and Sean Black in happIer times.

"He took me on as a little protégé. He referred to me as pet. So I was his pet," she once told of the chance meeting with the barrister at a Park Ridge fruit shop while in her 20s.

Tacon would help the Israeli-born law student get admitted as a barrister (though not in practise) and win the 2004 and 2008 council elections before his illness struck.

He also covered her painful $40,000 leg lengthening at a Russian clinic, detailed by Ban in her 2003 book God Made Me Small, Surgery Made Me Tall, under the pseudonym Sara Vornamen.

But her management of the ailing Tacon's affairs had erupted in controversy by mid-2010.

The trouble was brewing as the unwell 65-year-old Tacon walked Ban, then 32, down the aisle at her fairytale Mt Tamborine wedding that spring to controversial fellow Logan councillor Sean Black.

"Educated, knowledgeable and hardworking, she had it all really and the looks went along with it," former councillor colleague Darren Power recalls.

"We all thought Sean was batting well above his (average)."

Hajnal Ban outside the Supreme Court.
Hajnal Ban outside the Supreme Court.

Wedding guests included former Nationals senator Ron Boswell, Clive Palmer and Barnaby Joyce.

Black was "the luckiest man in southeast Queensland," Joyce, the MC, then enthused.

But months later, Ban was removed as Tacon's enduring power of attorney and replaced by the Office of the Public Trustee under controversial circumstances.

The PT later alleged in a Supreme Court claim that Ban finalised the $2.25m sale of Tacon's Park Ridge property as his power of attorney then "misappropriated" part of the proceeds.

A court heard that included a $100,000 transfer to Black to pay off debts, $96,000 on an investment property, a $75,000 fence at her New Beith acreage home and $49,000 on living expenses.

Ban argued that while she knew Tacon lacked capacity to finalise the sale, he intended to gift it to her to help her care for him. Tacon died in 2012, age 68, after a three-year dementia battle.

Hajnal Ban in 2010 when she was a Logan City Councillor.
Hajnal Ban in 2010 when she was a Logan City Councillor.

Soon after, the court found $849,732 spent by Ban was not used for Tacon's benefit.

About $500,000 has since been recovered. The unaccounted funds are expected to be dealt with at an upcoming Supreme Court hearing as the PT attempts to settle Tacon's estate.

Tacon's three adult sons - largely cut out of his will - are seeking further provision.

They will receive any funds remaining from the Park Ridge land sale. While Ban was left a share of the land in Tacon's will, that was voided because it was sold before he died.

But Ban was left another Tacon's property at Greenbank. That was sold for $600,000 last May after Ban failed to meet a court ordered-deadline to pay $25,000 for its upkeep.

The $283,000 owed by Ban to the estate in court ordered costs will be dealt with at a hearing in November. Ban was in 2012 criticised by then Court of Appeal president Margaret McMurdo for "depleting" the estate with "futile" appeals.

Her New Beith home has also been auctioned off amid her financial difficulties.

Adding to her dramas, Ban has suffered from synthetic herb-induced hallucinations, the court heard.

Ban also endured the public breakdown of her marriage, divorcing Black in 2012.

Black was last year convicted of raping and assaulting a woman more than a decade ago and jailed.

Ban did not return calls.



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